Horowhenua children who might not otherwise have received a Christmas present will do so this year thanks to the hard work of a group of people behind an shoebox appeal.
But the harsh reality is that without the hard work of the people behind what was now an annual appeal, those children would likely have gone without.
In a scene resembling a Christmas movie, they could easily be mistaken for Christmas elves preparing Santa's sleigh as they loaded up hand-made presents that had been a year in the making.
Oranga Tamariki social worker Therase Apatu and Levin police Senior Sergeant Beth Purcell have been at the front of a group organising Christmas presents for those in need for the last six years.
The aim was to provide children that might go without the opportunity to have a Christmas present under the tree, and to recognise that there were people in the community under financial stress unable to afford presents.
The need was growing each year as families face increasing hardships due to financial, medical or health-related struggles. More than 200 children received presents in the first year, while more than 1600 were provided for last year.
Gifted items include food, toys, books, and clothing. This year they were focusing on families negatively affected by Covid-19 through loss of work, reduced income or other circumstances.
Levin Menz Shed had supported the initiative in the last four years with members spending time crafting toys through the year in anticipation of the end-of-year appeal.
There were toys made from scratch using donated or unwanted materials to make an incredible array of toys to suit boys and girls of different ages, including doll's houses and bassinets, and lawn mowers and toy cars.
A popular item last year was a toy clothesline to hang the dolls' clothes out to dry and many were put together again this year, along with games of quoits that make up some 160 toys that were donated.
Menzshed chairman John Shearman said the toys were made throughout the year and stored in a loft upstairs. They were also given blankets and mattresses that were made to fit doll's houses and doll's cots.
Bags and boxes left the shed and were loaded into cars where they will form part of the annual appeal.
Therase Apatu and Beth Purcell coincide annual leave from work to make sure they are on hand to help.
It was a completely independent organisation that used private messages on Facebook and word of mouth to find people in need. Apatu also liaised with agencies and churches Horowhenua-wide and asked them to nominate families that might need a hand.
The gifts then arrive on their doorstep a week before Christmas with an explanation of the kaupapa behind the presents.
Apatu said every effort was made to guard the privacy of anyone receiving the presents. All they needed was an address, and description of the child's age and gender so the present provided could be appropriate.
There were also gift boxes put together to collate other goodies like cookies and chocolates.
She said there were occasions now where some families that had benefited from the appeal during hard times had donated this year, as a way of saying thank you but also in recognition of what the appeal had meant to them during hard times.
Some have got involved and assisted with the appeal.
Purcell said it might be that there were two working people in a family and the combined weekly income was exhausted covering the rent and food, with no money left over to buy of Laybuy presents through the year.
"This is to help out," she said.
"One of the best things about being involved is that it does bring the whole community together," she said.
"It's exhausting, but it satisfying to see the looks on faces from people who are genuinely overwhelmed ..."
The group co-ordinated the appeal using the Levin Memorial Hall each year on a weekend in December and would be there this weekend.
"Some businesses have staff that get involved and some college students like to be involved. It really creates a social awareness and an awareness of social justice," she said.
There were students from some of the local secondary schools that liked to help out too.
"The goodwill in the community is tremendous and the children love filling shoeboxes for kids of similar age and gender. They also learn that some children are not as lucky as them and have to go without at Christmas," she said.
A number of drop-off points have been organised where anyone can drop off new gifts for families in need. These include:
· Superminx, Levin
· Wilton & Co, Levin
· Humble Pie, Foxton
· Wild Rose Florist, Levin
· Waiterere Beach Playgroup
· Oranga Tamariki, Levin
· Patricia Farrows, Levin
· Creative Minds Playgroup
Items must be new gifts for parents and children. Suitable gifts include clothing, games, toys, activities, books, soaps, etc.
Anyone can nominate a deserving family and all personal details remain confidential. To nominate, message Therase Apatu via the Facebook page.
https://www.facebook.com/christmasforeveryone with details of the parent/s, ages and gender of each child, and their address, for example Mum, Dad and three boys ages 3, 5 and 7, and the address to deliver to.